Saturday, November 14, 2009

PASIC 2009 - Day 4

Good god I'm almost to the point of exhaustion here but today was another tour-de-force at PASIC 2009. I'm sad that it has come to an end and I had a great time but I'm not sure my body can take much more of this !

Today was another action packed day featuring many of the world's top percussionists.

Here's the roll call of the highlights of my day:

- Legendary big band drummer Ed Shaughnessy gave a morning session on basic timekeeping and ride cymbal techniques. Ed also related some personal anecdotes about his early days playing on 52nd street during the late 40s and his relationship with Buddy Rich. Ed is truly one of the last from a quickly disappearing generation of jazz drummers. One of the "Last of the Mohicans", so-to-speak, so I'm glad to hear him play and talk.

- Victor Rendon, Memo Acevedo and friends gave a high-energy and super groovy performance/masterclass regarding some specific Afro-Latin grooves including the mozambique, cumbia and bembe rhythms. I really appreciated the contextualization and explanations given about these rhythms. These guys obviously know their stuff. I've known Memo since my trip to Cuba to 2006 and he is a great soul. Memo is the man !

Thanks also to Marco at Vic Firth for the free LP egg shakers that were distributed before the show. Man, with a room full of drummers that could have been a recipe for trouble... : )

- Skip Hadden, Berklee professor and author of one of my favorite drum instructional books, "Broken Straight-Eighth Playing", gave an insightful clinic about the history and development of the jazz fusion movement of the late 60s and 70s.

- James Campbell presented an incredibly organized and articulate session about basic fundamental snare drum technique and stressed that we should be teaching young drummers to think more about the motion and sounds we are making just as much as the sticking and rhythmic patterns we play. He is a very good teacher !

- Wandering through the exhibit hall my friend, Jonathan Eng, and I stopped by the General Washington snare drum booth. We spent time talking and getting an in-depth history lesson with rudimental snare drum expert George P. Carroll. WOW !!! This guy knows everything there is to know about civil war/american revolutionary war rudimental rope tension snare drumming. We even played a bit on some of his beautiful drums (that he makes). Boy those things were loud....although I can see why (makes sense if you were competing with artillery on a battlefield!).

- I spent some time at the Sabian cymbal booth and tried out the new Jack DeJohnette "Three point" ride cymbals that they had on display. Nice cymbals and an interesting concept. Quite a departure from Jack's previous lines of cymbals he had developed with Sabian in the last 20 years. But I actually dig these sounds more than the previous ones and I think they are more similar in concept to his cymbal sound of the 70s when he played Paiste cymbals (not nearly as dry?) Of course Jack could play a tin can and an ashtray and make them sound good !!!

- Cynthia Yeh, the new principal percussionist with the Chicago Symphony, gave a great session on making the most music out of orchestral excerpts and really putting a thoughtful and personal touch to phrasing those passages. An incredibly gifted and musical person. Quite a departure from my field of study - but I learned something. Each note counts and you can pack alot into one stroke !

- I attended a drum set panel discussion entitled "Using Technology in the Teaching Studio". Artists including Dom Famularo, Tommy Igoe, Benny Greb and Kim Plainfield (among others) offered an insightful discussion about using DVD's and recording technology to assist in motivating and informing students. The future is now !

- Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band "Live from New York" were featured on Saturday's closing concert with percussionist
Rolando Morales-Matos. This was a no-holds-barred set and the band put it into fifth-gear from the first note. It was REALLY loud ! Rolando was outstanding on congas, timbales, some alien looking steel pan type of drum (from Switzerland apparently?) and, despite the fact that his instrument was literally self-destructing on stage while he played, his vibraphone features were very creative, full of high energy and sounded great. I would love to hear this cat when his vibes aren't falling apart ! This guy smokes !!!

And now the final installment of....


Saturday, November 14th - 2009

Well, today's FOUR ON THE FLOOR MVP AWARD is a bit of a no-brainer and goes to one of my all-time favorite jazz drummers - Jack DeJohnette !

Jack performed a non-stop improvised drum "concerto" for about 45 minutes in front of a capacity crowd this afternoon. I was lucky to be stage centre in about the 5th row. He didn't say much before he started, just a few thank you's and that he would "open himself up to the cosmic continuum" for inspiration.

Here's a short clip of Jack doing his thing:

His solo began with a series of mallet crashes on his hi-hats and used the microphone he had been speaking on to amplify the overtones of his cymbals while they resonated. And they sang !!! I swear he was getting chords out of his cymbals....Continuing to the drums, Jack explored the melodic elements of his sizeable drum set, eventually settling into a motif that recalled John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme". Eventually, after continuing for several minutes he paused and stated that he was going to play his tribute to the great drummers of Motown. And Jack proceed to groove in the most beautiful groovy back beat way that Jack does. He explored various tempos and textures on the drums during his statement - fast broken swing, loose funky grooves and melodic passages on the tomtoms. His sense of phrasing and rhythmic architecture was amazing. The way he connects sections and flows from one idea to the next was very moving. His new Sabian cymbals sounded fantastic.

I was in heaven.

Now I just need to get some sleep....

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